Ole Miss Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace hasn't been on campus in Oxford for long, but he's already the focal point of the offense for new head coach Hugh Freeze, racking up significant yardage on the ground.
Before getting into what he's been doing this year, it's worth going back and looking at where he was last season during his record-setting campaign at East Mississippi Community College.
The scouting report after watching his available looked something like this:
The numbers Wallace put up in his year at EMCC are certainly impressive, but after watching both his high school and junior college film, his ability to adjust his mechanics by shortening his release and taking out a hitch at the top of his delivery speaks well to his coachability. As a result, the ball now jumps out of his hand better, though he doesn't consistently spin the ball as well as David Ash.
If there's a major concern with Wallace, it is in how quickly he can make the transition to major-college football, especially with his decision-making. His highlight reel from the 2011 season suggests that he has something of a gunslinger mentality, as he had a tendency to throw the ball up for grabs when pressured and was often bailed out by a strong receiving corps. Especially when he had pressure in his face, Wallace's footwork often broke down, leading to major decreases in velocity -- though Wallace has acceptable arm strength, he doesn't have the arm strength to make up for breakdowns with his footwork.
From the coaches
After some Sunday film-watching, the Texas coaches had some comments worth passing along.
From Mack Brown, on the offense run by Hugh Freeze:
They're running a [former Longhorn QB] Vince Young type offense. They run zone-read. They're wide open. Lot of trick plays, but they're really balanced. He's a big guy that can run and pass. He's been very accurate at 76 percent.
But Bo's a great player. Completing 76 percent of his passes, five touchdowns, one interception and two rushing touchdowns. So he'll be a handful for us this weekend
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz on Wallace:
You can watch on tape what he's doing when he carries himself. He can make bad plays, good plays for them. What he's also doing is he's not making bad plays disasters. It might be a throwaway or scramble for six yards when he's covered. But he's not throwing it to their team and taking bad sacks and stuff like that. On the flip side, third or fourth play of the game they had a double move, you know, bang. Right on the money.
UTEP went into the exact same play at Ole Miss, they had a little stutter going to the wideout. UTEP's quarterback kind of rushed it and set his feet and overthrows by about a foot.
This guy [Wallace] sets his feet - and it happened afterwards. They called the play second. [He] sets his feet and throws a beautiful strike for a 50-yard touchdown pass to [WR Donte] Moncrief. So you know the guy's capable of making a play which is something that scares you.
What It All Means
It's worth starting out with the play Diaz mentions above. As the Texas defensive coordinator says, it was a stutter-and-go route to the top big-play threat, 6-2 Donte Moncrief, who has a nice combination of size, speed, and hands. A play-action fake may have frozen a safety (there's no help for the corner over the top, in any case) and Moncrief created separation with his double move.
Diaz mentions one of the keys to the play. It's not overly surprising to see a quarterback set their feet on the rollout to deliver a long pass, but Wallace exhibited ideal footwork and accuracy hitting his receiver in stride roughly 50 yards downfield.
The obvious thought here for Texas fans is that it would be nice to see David Ash hit a receiver just so on just such a throw. It would.
On the other big pass play of the game, it looked like some type of coverage bust resulted in a wide receiver running free down the sideline and Wallace was again able to make the throw in stride for another big gain. Two big opportunities, both converted.
Beyond those specific plays, Diaz does a fair job in summarizing what else Wallace does well -- the key is not making bad plays worse than they are. That gunslinging mentality he showed on his highlights didn't translate into poor decisions against UTEP, though it's hard to say what happened against Central Arkansas. Assuming here that Diaz watched that and included it in his analysis.
In a clean pocket, Wallace doesn't show happy feet or a quick internal clock that makes him want to bail when it expires, but feels pressure instead. Like most quarterbacks, he likes to escape to his right and will flatten out down the line of scrimmage until he's exhausted his downfield options before taking off and picking up positive yardage with his athleticism.
As on the designed rollout, Wallace will set his feet to make throws that require more velocity. His worst throw against UTEP in the three quarters watched was one such throw, when he tried to come back across the field about 30 yards. Against the Miners, it wasn't as dangerous of a throw as it will be against the Longhorns this weekend, as the closing speed of the Texas defensive backs could turn decisions like that into interceptions, even though it was thrown low to minimize the risk.
In the intermediate game, Wallace threw darts, consistently hitting his receivers in stride. He wasn't under a great deal of pressure throughout the game because of the quick passing game, so it wasn't clear from studying this particular film whether he will still have the footwork breakdowns with pressure in his face that could cause the type of fluttering balls the hawks in the Texas secondary prey upon.
What he did put on film showed good footwork, the ability to spin the football with above average arm strength, and no remnants of the weird hitch that he had in high school that was so awkward. Whatever coaching he has been receiving in the last several years has been effective, and it appears that he has learned from Freeze.
In the running game, describing the Ole Miss offense as looking like the Vince Young spread at Texas is probably accurate -- which gives it something of a feeling of not quite being a modern spread, though it's hard to define specifically what that means.
Basically, Wallace will run a lot of the classic zone read stuff in the quarterback run game out of the shotgun, typical zone read with some quarterback counters as well. Did not notice any draws, but they did run a triple option look that included an end around toss on the second iteration, which caught the UTEP defense off guard. Ole Miss likes to run it with their little freshman speed back, so Texas needs to be aware of those type of personnel changes and any tendencies they may foreshadow.
As a runner, Wallace may not be quite as athletic as Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith, but he has the speed to pick up some yardage and enough size that he could be hard to bring down if defenders do a poor job of squaring him up.
Overall, Texas will probably have some issues getting many sacks in this game -- Wallace will get the ball out too quickly by design, with shots down the field in the play-action game. More than anything else, Diaz will seek to limit those plays, as he always does. As a result, Texas won't be able to outnumber the Rebels in the box, but will instead have to win individual battles and play assignment football, which the 'Horns had some mild struggles with him in the game against New Mexico.
How well Wallace plays will influence not only the Texas narrative and how people perceive the decision not to pursue Wallace, but will also, in large part,